Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Federal Update for November 9

In what has turned out to be a status quo election, President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term in office, while Democrats held onto control of the Senate and Republicans retained control of the House.

The President indicated in his acceptance speech that research and education would continue to be among his priorities.  He said:

  • "…But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers, a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow."
  • "…We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag. To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner. To the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president – that's the future we hope for. That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go – forward…"

The U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Senator Kohl will be filled by Tammy Baldwin, who has served in the U.S. Congress as the 2nd congressional district representative.  Baldwin will follow in Senator Kohl's footsteps as a strong and passionate advocate for public higher education.  Representative Baldwin will be replaced in the U.S. House by Mark Pocan, a Democrat, who has served in the Wisconsin State Legislature since 1998.  The incumbents in Wisconsin's remaining seven congressional districts were all re-elected.  As a result of the elections, the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives by political affiliation is 234 Republicans, 193 Democrats, with 8 races undecided.  The Democrats will maintain control in the U.S. Senate with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents.

With the election concluded, policymakers are now gearing up for the post-election, lame duck congressional session which begins next Tuesday, November 13.  At the top of a lengthy to-do list will be finding a way to avoid the end-of-year "fiscal cliff" of large, automatic across-the-board cuts in defense and nondefense spending—"the sequester"—and expiring tax benefits.

Next week, UW System staff will be meeting with congressional offices and delivering letters signed by President Reilly, UW Chancellors and UW Colleges Deans that asks policymakers to work toward a balanced and long-term deficit reduction agreement – one that avoids indiscriminate spending cuts that will affect critical priorities for our students and institutions.  Based on Fiscal Year 2012 data, UW System institutions received federal funding of $973 million for federally-funded grants and contracts as well as student financial aid (excluding loan funds).  An across-the-board sequestration cut of 8.4 percent would mean an approximate cut of $67.1 million to UW System federal student financial aid and federal grants and contracts, primarily research funding, it is estimated.

(AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)